The Preparation of Paul
“I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus” (vv. 16–17).- Galatians 1:11–24
Paul begins Galatians by saying that he was sent by Christ and the Father, and that the other church leaders agreed with him. In Galatians 1:11–2:10, he expands on these two points.
He begins in verses 11 and 12 by saying that the Gospel he preached was not devised by human wisdom, nor had he received it from the other apostles; rather, he was taught it directly by Jesus Christ Himself. He continues by reminding them that he had been trained in and was fanatically devoted to the erroneous traditions of Judaism. When God called Paul on the Damascus road, he was commissioned to preach the Gospel of Christ.
Paul said that when Christ called him, he did not go to Jerusalem to receive instruction from the apostles. Rather, he retired into Arabia for a time and not until three years later did he go to Jerusalem. Even then, the only apostle he met was Peter, and the only other leader he met was James, the presiding elder of the Jerusalem church. It has often been remarked that Paul clearly implied that he spent three years being taught by Jesus Himself (1:12), either directly or (perhaps more likely) through the study of the Word. Thus, like the other apostles, Paul studied with Christ for three years before beginning his ministry (compare Acts 1:21).
Thus, Paul established for the Galatians that he received the Gospel by the same means as the other apostles —directly from Jesus. Fourteen years after his conversion, he had occasion to go to Jerusalem and there he met privately with the leaders, including the apostles Peter and John (2:1–10). He reports to the Galatians that they compared notes and found that there was absolutely no difference between what he had been teaching for eleven years in Antioch and what the apostles had been teaching in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. There never had been a problem, nor was there one currently, between Paul’s message and the teaching of the Jerusalem church.
The point Paul is making to the Galatians is that there has never been any question about the content of the Gospel. The same Christ taught Peter and Paul, and both men were in complete agreement.
How likely is it that the acknowledged leaders of the church today could come to such unanimous theological agreement? It was no less difficult then, yet it was achieved. What would it require for such accord in our generation? Pray for the unity of Christ’s church and the resulting peace that would ensue.
Passages for Further Study
1 Thessalonians 2:2–9
2 Timothy 1:8